Since real travel and real vacations were simply not in style at the start of this year, my family took a much needed stay-cation to Palm Desert. Though a long drive through what I call “nothing” but is actually vital farmland and agriculture for the state of California and the entire country, heading to this Palm Desert rental was the break we were all begging for. It is a cute little house on the golf course, outfitted with a pool and hot tub and simply perfect for a short-term retreat. Not being much of a swimmer myself, I found my enjoyment just watching the kids splash around. And I was always quite delighted by their initial hesitation and then fervor for getting into the deep end of the pool. They would giggle and dip just their toe in. They would step right up to the edge and then retreat. They would threaten to push the other one in first. Then they’d lament about how cold it was going to be and how they should be paid to jump in. They would spend several minutes of this before finally just doing what I knew they would - jump in. With a big splash and fanfare and initial shock, it was a moment they repeated and I filmed for 2 weeks. I was fascinated by their ability to eventually do what so many of us are just too scared to do - jump in.
Kids are good like that. They haven’t lived quite long enough to know better. They are not jaded by disappointment or failures in their short, joyous lives. Kids embrace challenges more eagerly because they have little evidence that things will go wrong. So they go for it! Sometimes much to the chagrin of their parents, who are standing by praying they don’t take too many risks. We basically want them to be more like us - careful, measured, serious, mindful and risk-averse. Maybe we should try to be a little more like them? While careful and measured can get the job done, a bit of candor and freedom to just do it is nothing short of awesome.
What if we could do exactly what they did? What if we could learn to embrace the excitement that comes with just jumping in the deep end?
Our lives are full of opportunities to dive right in. There might be a work promotion on the horizon that would require us to put ourselves out there in a big way. We might have fallen deeply in love with a person, or even a pet, and committing our hearts and time to them requires giving more of ourselves than makes us entirely comfortable. Making a big decision, like moving across the country, buying a house, going back to school, starting a new career, having a difficult conversation, or financially investing in a new endeavor. We are asked to make a choice and just go for it. Stop talking about it and thinking about it and just do it.
All of these things require something more than careful planning and thought. They require a little bit of faith, too. Faith that what we are doing is going to actually work out favorably. And just like that pool jump, we fear the worst. Our minds are full of these terrible and unanswerable “what ifs”, giving us plenty of fuel to justify not doing it at all. And at the moment, not doing feels so good, doesn’t it? We can set any anxious feelings aside and just move on to the next thing. But then we don’t get to see what would have happened had we just gone ahead and jumped in.
Jumping in is different than behaving impulsively or without thought of the consequences. Remember, the kids standing at the edge of the pool have made a reasoned decision to go swimming. They are familiar with the pool and they know how to swim. And they desperately want to cool off in what they are certain is the refreshing pool. Jumping in is not about throwing caution completely to the wind in order to do something rash. Jumping in is more like marshalling large amounts of your energy and joy into doing something that you know will likely be rewarding, if you can just get past the initial shock. Jumping in is knowing that it might be uncomfortable but it certainly isn’t going to kill you. And what is that famous phrase? Oh yeah - what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I don’t know about that. I prefer “what doesn’t kill you makes you realize that you have a long life of trying and failing ahead of you”. Ok, not as elegant but you get the idea.
The failure to see the long-term benefits of a short-term jump is what separates those who do from those who want to do. Enduring what you know will be temporary discomfort in order to change your trajectory or your outcomes could be viewed as something that is necessary in life in order to live it fully. No one wants to be unsuccessful. No one goes into a project saying “I hope I fail” (if you know anyone who does please find them a life coach). But we are often guilty of avoiding the very crossroads of effort and faith and possible failure just to ensure that we never have to admit that we might not have reached our goal, or that we might not have achieved what we initially wanted. Or we stumbled through the whole process fearing that we will forever be rolling back the video footage of our trials. In other words, we dive in the pool and belly flop instead of elegantly stretching out and pointing our toes. We watch the people who dive well and we step away from the edge. But the truth is that belly flop or swan dive, both people are still in the same place - the pool.
So go ahead. Put on your suit. Prepare for that initial chill. Take a deep breath. And dive in. You will be so happy you did. Scoot over once you come up for air because my kids are right behind you.